New Rhea Heritage and Scopes Trial Museum opens

RHEA COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — People who attended opening for the new Rhea Heritage and Scopes Trial Museum in Dayton say they are glad this piece of history will be told to future generations.

On Monday morning Governor Bill Haslam cut the ribbon for the new Rhea Heritage and Scopes Trial Museum.
It was designed in partnership between the Rhea County Courthouse Restoration Task Force and design firm, Advent.

“We are trying to preserve the past and prepare the future through education,” said Laura Travis, who is with the task force.

The museum explores the Scopes trial in 1925. It was held after teacher John Scopes was accused of violating the Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach evolution in public schools. People crowded the town to see William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow argue both sides of the case.

“The issues, creation, evolution, the science, religion, parental rights, academic freedom, majority versus minority rights, on and on. These are all things that were argued here really for the first time in a courtroom and I think that is why we made our mark,” said Tom Davis, the former president of the Rhea County Historical Society.

One woman held a sign saying, ‘Darrow, enemy of God.’ Historians understand people are still passionate about the issues.

“The questions that were raised during the trial haven’t gone away,” Davis said.

The museum also celebrates other issues including, Bryan College, African-American history and the trail of tears.

“As the governor, this is one of those places on the historical map in Tennessee and it is just really encouraging to see this community say we want to make certain that generations from now people will still know this story,” Governor Haslam said.

Residents say this museum help keeps the Scopes Trial alive.

“We are lucky enough in Dayton to have this as part of our heritage and history and we believe it will go on forever,” said Ann Bates, whose grandfather saw the trial unfold.

Other grants and funding were secured for a new roof, and brick and mortar repair for the courthouse.

Categories: Featured, Local News, Rhea County

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